Green Tick: OurFuture.Energy Website
“The partnership approach, with partners from all energy sectors, contributes to a representative and balanced website.”
“There are approximately 130 curriculum-linked resource pages in total across the seven collections.”
OurFuture.Energy is an interactive website that supports the teaching of energy-themed topics primarily within science, geography and career advisory lessons. Throughout the website, high quality, informative and attractive photographs and videos are used to complement readable descriptive and explanatory text. The website consists of a series of pages designed to engage and inform teachers, and students aged between 11 and 16 years of age, with scientific and technological issues relating to the energy industry, including careers. However, it goes beyond providing information about our current energy industry and includes insights into innovative technologies that are being developed or imagined. It also has a collection of resources relating to COP26 held in Glasgow during November 2021. The website is designed to be attractive and accessible for users and includes search facilities and filters to support teachers in identifying and selecting curriculum-related resources. As energy-related issues become more prominent in the news and peoples’ minds, the website provides a welcome source of information and inspiration for teachers and students alike.
Partners and stakeholders
The website has been developed by the Glasgow Science Centre in partnership with four key energy industry stakeholders. These are:
- OPITO, the skills organisation for energy – working to develop a safe and skilled energy workforce;
- RenewableUK, the not-for-profit professional body and trade association representing over 400 member companies within the renewable energy sector;
- UKOOG (UK Onshore Oil and Gas), representing the onshore oil and gas industry and supply chain; and
- NIA, the Nuclear Industry Association, representing over 260 companies in the civil nuclear industry in the UK.
The partnership approach, with partners from all energy sectors, contributes to a representative and balanced website that is responsive to developments and innovations within the energy industry.
The website comprises a series of different resource pages in nine collections that are accessed via tabs at the top of the page. Eight collections are highly suitable for student use: COP26, Bright Idea, Day In The Life, Debate, Energy Mix, How It Works, In Focus and Quiz. A ninth collection, Teacher Zone, provides quality-assured downloadable lesson resources. Collections are themed and distinct, supporting users to find related resources. There are approximately 120 curriculum-linked resource pages in total across the nine collections.
The search facility on the home page supports teachers from the four home nations to filter resource pages relevant to their curriculum. For example, a teacher from Wales could find all resources relating to energy from fuels relevant to the KS3 curriculum using filters. A similar search tool also appears on all resource pages. Alternatively, specific information can be found through a keyword search tool on the home page. The same search tool can be accessed from any page using the ‘hamburger icon’ (☰) tab at the top of the page. Each resource page now concludes with curriculum links listed, which is a welcome addition. As with the search function, there are links to all four nations’ curricula, quickly allowing users to identify the relevance of a resource page.
COP26 is a collection of resources that supports student understanding of the conference. The resource, What is COP26?, gives an excellent overview of the conference aims and its implications for countries and their citizens around the world. Other resources within the collection explain in more detail how it is possible to achieve Net Zero through changing how energy resources are used and how we as individuals act. The Energy Minister for a Day resource provides students with an insight into the challenges facing policy makers, through linking to the interactive Mackay Carbon Calculator on the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy website.
Bright Idea resource pages are all about innovative ideas relating to energy generation and the energy industry. For example, there are pages that explore floating wind turbines, ways of reusing captured carbon, and mini-nuclear reactors. Pages typically identify key issues regarding the topic and go on to describe possible creative and innovative solutions to them. Some of the bright ideas seem far-fetched when compared with conventional technologies, but the ‘blue-sky’ thinking employed by some is quite refreshing. For example, the Floating Wind page describes the limitations of conventional offshore wind farms (shallow seas, difficult maintenance) and how floating wind farms might offer a solution to those limitations. As a section, it would provide great stimulus for creative thinking tasks about possible future energy provision.
Day In The Life resource pages provide insight into careers in the energy industry. Each page describes a role through an interview with an energy worker. Some use images and text whilst others include video. There is a good range of careers described, from engineering to environmental work. Some of the careers described require degree-level qualifications, whereas others, such as apprenticeships, only require 16+ qualifications such as GCSEs or National 5s. The interviewees are well chosen; most are younger than 35 years and there is a good gender balance. Whilst strongly supporting messages about the importance of STEM careers, these pages also portray them as achievable and rewarding, and carried out by ordinary people rather than stereotypical scientists and engineers.
Debate resource pages provide stimulus material suitable for the basis of a classroom debate. For example, the Fracking: Yes or No? page clearly describes the fracking process, using graphics and bullet-pointed text. It then goes on to explore the controversy by providing arguments for and against fracking. Other pages such as the Energy Equality page are laid out to provide information about energy access and use across the world and how and why that situation might have to change. Pages such as this one may not be directly related to examination specifications, but offer stimulus for students interested in global issues from a citizenship perspective.
Energy Mix resource pages explore how different countries balance the energy trilemma of security, accessibility and sustainability. This provides a fresh, global perspective to energy generation and could open up learning about UK energy provision and debate about whether we should consider more creative alternatives to our current situation.
How It Works resource pages explain different technologies through photographs, graphics, short animations and text. Key technologies appearing on exam specifications, such as conventional power stations, nuclear power stations, solar energy, wind, wave and geothermal energy generation, are covered. However, the section also covers other related technologies such as energy storage, carbon capture, the national grid and the gas grid. Such additional information elevates the section from merely addressing examination needs to educating students to be informed citizens of the future.
The In Focus section is a collection of about 25 resource pages, which focus on a diverse range of topics. For example, there is an excellent summary page about our main energy resources that complements more detailed resource pages in the How It Works collection. A second page explores the environmental impact of all energy resources, including renewable resources: for example, how hydroelectric dams can disrupt fish migration, and how growing biomass fuels prevents the land from being used for food production. Other pages explore the impact of pollution and the journey of chocolate from cocoa plants to Easter eggs. Pages in this section often explore topics covered on other pages in more detail. For example, there is a page about the types of nuclear waste and how they are processed and stored, which complements pages such as Mini-Nuclear Reactors.
The Quiz collection provides students with simple self-assessment tasks. Some are light-hearted with a serious message, such as the Cows Vs Cars quiz, which compares the environmental impact of beef farming with car use. Others support self-assessment of energy resources and their use around the world. One, more complex, quiz invites students to become an energy minister for the day. Students make decisions about how to provide energy for the UK by developing new resources and by importing fuels or electricity from abroad. The quizzes collect answers given by users over time and use this data when giving answers to new quiz users. Such feedback is helpful and interesting for students and gives teachers useful feedback about common student misconceptions.
The Teacher Zone is a welcome feature of the website. It currently comprises seven resources including lesson resources and activities, videos and other downloadable resources. The Energy resources project focuses students on specific pages on the website for research and creating electronic presentations. Another resource, Powering the future, may be used independently of the website.
Using the website in the classroom
There is a vast amount of curriculum-linked information available to support teachers in planning lessons. The searchable nature of the resources and curriculum linkage makes planning classroom activities efficient and effective. It supports independent learning activities such as Marketplace and Information Stations, without the need for duplication of resource sheets. It also supports student research for project work complemented by the Energy resources project materials produced in partnership with the ASE. It provides an alternative and engaging approach to revision and, as curriculum time becomes increasing squeezed, the option of using quality online resources such as this offers great support for flipped learning approaches. Another good use is for supporting remote learning approaches such as those necessary during the pandemic.
The website goes beyond the 14-16 curriculum, but this is a great advantage for planning enrichment and extension activities. For example, it provides relevant information for students to explore questions such as ‘How can the UK improve its security, accessibility and sustainability?’ Similarly, it would support debates such as ‘More nuclear power should be used in the UK to reduce carbon emissions’. The COP26 Conference in Glasgow raised the profile of the energy debate within the UK and OurFuture.Energy supports schools with that debate within schools.
OurFuture.Energy website is an engaging and informative resource that offers a great opportunity for teaching about energy resources. The website is well laid-out for students and teachers and information is straightforward to locate. It is highly supportive of science teaching and learning across the four home nations through curriculum links on each resource page.